OUR SAY: Wistful for the wondrous days of walking to and from school

THE state government’s announcement last week of tougher penalties for drivers behaving badly in school zones threw the spotlight on a couple of obvious truths.

Firstly, some motorists need to show greater levels of both consideration and patience when running the gauntlet of the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up.

Secondly, the infringements these laws have been introduced to combat are, in many cases, brought about by the bottlenecks of traffic found near most school gates on any given morning or afternoon.

More kids are being driven to school. Put another way, fewer kids are walking to school.

And, on the balance of things, you’d have to say they’re poorer for it.

Parents of children who grew up in Orange in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s did not give a second thought to their youngsters walking to and from school.

You’d see them strolling casually to school, stopping along the way to pick flowers, gossip or take the long way to delay going to class.

On the way home they’d rush back via the faster route, perhaps talking to neighbours they knew along the way, chatting about their day and planning for the evening ahead.

Some might have begged their parents to drive them during the harshest parts of Orange’s winter, which is fair enough. Those who didn’t want to walk would spend most of the day dreading the inevitable trudge home or trying to scam lifts from friend’s parents.

Not only was it a good social outing but it was an easy form of exercise and a way to learn about the surroundings. 

But a recently-released study shows a lot of parents believe it is too unsafe for their children to walk to and from school.

The survey conducted by the Heart Foundation's LiveLighter campaign showed that more than 50 per cent of parents believed it was important that children be able to walk to school without an adult but less than one-third believed it was safe.

Parents also said there was too much traffic in NSW for their children to walk to school, while others said the school was too far for their children to walk while others said it was just not safe enough.

It’s sad to think that this could be the general consensus of our community, that its residents don’t feel that their children are in a safe environment.

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